It’s never too late to pursue writing as a vocation if one belatedly discovers having the talent and the great reserves of energy to do it. Shirley A. makes this point with such disarming frankness in a recent e-mail that I thought I shouldn’t keep her sentiments all to myself. I am therefore sharing them here, verbatim, along with my reply:
I am reading “English Plain and Simple” and I am gaining so much, including being entertained by it. When I am done with the 463 pages, I might be able to express well what I want to tell you: how grateful I am that I found you and how much I am indebted to you. You see, I have had no formal education (in writing or otherwise) so I am not very encouraged to write anything, but your book is helping me a lot. You have no idea how much you will be contributing to my future happiness. I am 75 years old, living alone with almost nothing, but I hope to be able to fend for myself when I have nothing more but written words to see me through.
I just had a few good laughs today, reading quotes from H.L. Mencken. I just asked my daughter to send me a Nook and to order for me all that you recommended in pages 96/97 to Jay [http://tinyurl.com/m7qznjh].
Meantime, know that you are so much appreciated; if not for you, life would be meaningless and useless for me now. For the first time in my life, I have something worthy of the time God has given me on earth. I will not waste it now.
Thank you very, very much.
Very truly yours,
Just call me Joe.
Thank you so much for your compliment about my book. I want you to know that I greatly appreciate it.
You express yourself very well. I have no doubt that even without having come across my book, you already had the facility to write good, compelling English prose. Perhaps all that my book has really done was to perk up your imagination and give you some ideas on how to put your writing talent to good use. But at 75, having discovered that you have the power to do it, you can now pursue a worthy enterprise that definitely can see you through in the years ahead—write a volume of personal essays perhaps or, if you strongly feel it’s worth telling, even the story of your life. Mind you, Shirley, not everybody is blessed with the talent or the motivation or the energy to do what you can do at your age, so my advice is: Go for it!
About H. L. Mencken, I must say that he was a great influence during my formative years; in fact, I still get a thrill down my spine every time I’m rereading his overarching polemics. Which gives me an idea: While waiting for that Nook from your daughter, why not read Mencken’s In Defense of Women in the Project Gutenberg e-book right now? (http://tinyurl.com/o2qyyyd). The beauty about Mencken is that even if you don’t agree with his strong views, it’s always a delight to savor his acerbic thoughts in his superb English.
To ensure no dull moment in between your bouts of writing, Shirley, I have another suggestion: join Jose Carillo’s Forum, my English-usage website. You can ask questions or share your views about English or whatever in its discussion boards. You can even use it as a sketch pad or sounding board for material intended for your essays or autobiography. Who knows, someone from among the Forum’s over 42,000 members worldwide just might give you invaluable feedback or, at the very least, simply brighten up a sullen day for you.
Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum at http://josecarilloforum.com. Follow me at Twitter.com @J8Carillo.